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- The Children's Book of Christmas Stories - 5/46 -
was on the road to the Cherry-man's.
He had a beautiful orchard of cherry-trees all laden with fruit. And, sure enough in one of the largest, way up amongst the topmost branches, sat the Costumer in his red velvet and short clothes and his diamond knee-buckles. He looked down between the green boughs. "Good-morning, friends!" he shouted.
The Aldermen shook their gold-headed canes at him, and the people danced round the tree in a rage. Then they began to climb. But they soon found that to be impossible. As fast as they touched a hand or foot to a tree, back it flew with a jerk exactly as if the tree pushed it. They tried a ladder, but the ladder fell back the moment it touched the tree, and lay sprawling upon the ground. Finally, they brought axes and thought they could chop the tree down, Costumer and all; but the wood resisted the axes as if it were iron, and only dented them, receiving no impression itself.
Meanwhile, the Costumer sat up in the tree, eating cherries and throwing the stones down. Finally he stood up on a stout branch, and, looking down, addressed the people.
"It's of no use, your trying to accomplish anything in this way," said he; "you'd better parley. I'm willing to come to terms with you, and make everything right on two conditions."
The people grew quiet then, and the Mayor stepped forward as spokesman, "Name your two conditions," said he rather testily. "You own, tacitly, that you are the cause of all this trouble."
"Well" said the Costumer, reaching out for a handful of cherries, "this Christmas Masquerade of yours was a beautiful idea; but you wouldn't do it every year, and your successors might not do it at all. I want those poor children to have a Christmas every year. My first condition is that every poor child in the city hangs its stocking for gifts in the City Hall on every Christmas Eve, and gets it filled, too. I want the resolution filed and put away in the city archives."
"We agree to the first condition!" cried the people with one voice, without waiting for the Mayor and Aldermen.
"The second condition," said the Costumer, "is that this good young Cherry-man here has the Mayor's daughter, Violetta, for his wife. He has been kind to me, letting me live in his cherry-tree and eat his cherries and I want to reward him."
"We consent," cried all the people; but the Mayor, though he was so generous, was a proud man. "I will not consent to the second condition," he cried angrily.
"Very well," replied the Costumer, picking some more cherries, "then your youngest daughter tends geese the rest of her life, that's all."
The Mayor was in great distress; but the thought of his youngest daughter being a goose-girl all her life was too much for him. He gave in at last.
"Now go home and take the costumes off your children," said the Costumer, "and leave me in peace to eat cherries."
Then the people hastened back to the city, and found, to their great delight, that the costumes would come off. The pins stayed out, the buttons stayed unbuttoned, and the strings stayed untied. The children were dressed in their own proper clothes and were their own proper selves once more. The shepherdesses and the chimney-sweeps came home, and were washed and dressed in silks and velvets, and went to embroidering and playing lawn-tennis. And the princesses and the fairies put on their own suitable dresses, and went about their useful employments. There was great rejoicing in every home. Violetta thought she had never been so happy, now that her dear little sister was no longer a goose-girl, but her own dainty little lady-self.
The resolution to provide every poor child in the city with a stocking full of gifts on Christmas was solemnly filed, and deposited in the city archives, and was never broken.
Violetta was married to the Cherry-man, and all the children came to the wedding, and strewed flowers in her path till her feet were quite hidden in them. The Costumer had mysteriously disappeared from the cherry-tree the night before, but he left at the foot some beautiful wedding presents for the bride--a silver service with a pattern of cherries engraved on it, and a set of china with cherries on it, in hand painting, and a white satin robe, embroidered with cherries down the front.
IV. THE SHEPHERDS AND THE ANGELS
ADAPTED FROM THE BIBLE
And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. And an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign unto you; ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will toward men.
And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in the manger. And when they saw it, they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child. And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them.
And when eight days were fulfilled his name was called
V. THE TELLTALE TILE*
* From "Kristy's Queer Christmas," Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1904.
OLIVE THORNE MILLER
It begins with a bit of gossip of a neighbour who had come in to see Miss Bennett, and was telling her about a family who had lately moved into the place and were in serious trouble. "And they do say she'll have to go to the poorhouse," she ended.
"To the poorhouse! how dreadful! And the children, too?" and Miss Bennett shuddered.
"Yes; unless somebody'll adopt them, and that's not very likely. Well, I must go," the visitor went on, rising. "I wish I could do something for her, but, with my houseful of children, I've got use for every penny I can rake and scrape."
"I'm sure I have, with only myself," said Miss Bennett, as she closed the door. "I'm sure I have," she repeated to herself as she resumed her knitting; "it's as much as I can do to make ends meet, scrimping as I do, not to speak of laying up a cent for sickness and old age."
"But the poorhouse!" she said again. "I wish I could help her!" and the needles flew in and out, in and out, faster than ever, as she turned this over in her mind. "I might give up something," she said at last, "though I don't know what, unless--unless," she said slowly, thinking of her one luxury, "unless I give up my tea, and it don't seem as if I COULD do that."
Some time the thought worked in her mind, and finally she resolved to make the sacrifice of her only indulgence for six months, and send the money to her suffering neighbour, Mrs. Stanley, though she had never seen her, and she had only heard she was in want.
How much of a sacrifice that was you can hardly guess, you, Kristy, who have so many luxuries.
That evening Mrs. Stanley was surprised by a small gift of money "from a friend," as was said on the envelope containing it.
"Who sent it?" she asked, from the bed where she was lying.
"Miss Bennett told me not to tell," said the boy, unconscious that he had already told.
The next day Miss Bennett sat at the window knitting, as usual--for her constant contribution to the poor fund of the church was a certain number of stockings and mittens--when she saw a young girl coming up to the door of the cottage.
"Who can that be?" she said to herself. "I never saw her before. Come in!" she called; in answer to a knock. The girl entered, and walked up to Miss Bennett.
"Are you Miss Bennett?" she asked.
"Yes," said Miss Bennett with an amused smile,
"Well, I'm Hetty Stanley."
Miss Bennett started, and her colour grew a little brighter.
"I'm glad to see you, Hetty." she said, "won't you sit down?"
"Yes, if you please," said Hetty, taking a chair near her.
"I came to tell you how much we love you for--"
"Oh, don't! don't say any more!" interrupted Miss Bennett; "never mind that! Tell me about your mother and your baby brother."
This was an interesting subject, and they talked earnestly about it. The time passed so quickly that, before she knew it, she had been in the house an hour. When she went away Miss Bennett asked her to come
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